Instacart is one of the most popular delivery services in the United States.
As a customer, Instacart makes it convenient for you to do your essential shopping without leaving home.
As a Shopper, you can earn a side or full-time income working for Instacart.
However, a few Instacart scams can cost you money or even your job.
Read on to learn more about these scams and how to avoid them.
Are There Scams on Instacart?
As with almost any online platform, there are scams on Instacart.
Some scams are directed at customers, while others primarily affect Shoppers.
Unlike some online platforms, Instacart isn’t riddled with scams.
Only a small percentage of Shoppers and customers are there to run a scam.
Most people who use the Instacart app utilize it the way it is supposed to be.
Still, there are quite a few scams, and if you plan to use the platform, it’s best to be aware of the scams and know how to spot them.
Related: DoorDash scams to watch out for
Common Scams on Instacart
Below are eight of the most common Instacart scams.
We’ll also go into how you can avoid them and what to do if you’re the victim of a scam.
1. Shoppers Using Bots
To understand this scam, you must first understand how the Instacart app works for Shoppers.
When a customer places an order, it goes into a queue.
All Shoppers in the area can check their app and choose from available orders.
There are a few concerns for an Instartcart Shopper.
For one, you can only accept one order at a time.
You must complete the order before you can accept another one.
So, you may not be able to get as many orders as you’d like in a day.
Second, in larger cities where there are many Shoppers, picking up orders can get competitive.
Some Shoppers have resorted to using bots, which are third party apps that work alongside the Instacart app.
Some bots alert Shoppers when new orders appear.
Other bots snap up offers on behalf of the Shopper.
How to Avoid Instagram Scam Bots
Using bots violates Instacart’s terms of service.
While there isn’t much you can do to prevent bots, the company claims to be cracking down on bots.
Unfortunately, as soon as one bot app gets shut down, another pops up in its place.
If you notice bot activity, you can report the user to Instacart.
If you see bot apps advertised on sites like Instagram, you can block them and report them there.
2. Damaged Items
Instacart promises customers that their Instacart Shoppers will only buy items in perfect shape.
They won’t purchase anything that looks like it may be damaged.
For instance, Shoppers will only pick food like fruits and vegetables in good condition.
If the grocery store items don’t meet these standards, Instacart will refund the customer for the cost of the item.
Some scammers are always out to see if they can get things for free.
After receiving their order, they’ll go to the Instacart app, give the Shopper a one-star review, and claim their item was damaged.
Some customers will even go so far as to send pictures of the “damaged” goods.
While Shoppers typically don’t have to pay for damaged items, bad reviews can affect which orders they see.
Shoppers with a lower star rating don’t see the highest-paying orders.
Too many bad reviews can lead to their account being deactivated.
3. Missing Items
Similar to the DoorDash missing item racket, this one takes advantage of the generosity of the company itself.
Instacart also promises its customers that they’ll deliver all of the items ordered.
Customers aren’t charged for items that are out of stock or aren’t delivered for some other reason.
While Shoppers do sometimes make a mistake and don’t pick up an item, some scammers abuse this system.
Some scammers will place an order and then claim that they didn’t receive an item or even that an entire order wasn’t delivered.
They’ll sometimes give a one-star review for the Shopper, which can result in penalties.
One way to avoid this problem as a Shopper is to always take a photo of where the items are delivered.
For example, if you put the items on the customer’s front porch, take a picture that clearly shows the items and the porch.
You can then report the problem through Instacart customer support.
4. Extra Items
In one scam, some Instacart customers have noticed that they have a separate charge for extra items on their accounts.
These “extra items” are charged by Instacart Shoppers.
Shoppers have a card issued through Instacart that they use to make purchases.
There’s a cap on the card based on the cost of the order.
However, there is a small line of credit in case the Shopper needs to buy a replacement.
Shoppers who are trying to run a scam will charge for extra items.
They hope that the customer won’t notice, and they’ll be able to keep the extras or return them for cash or gift cards.
As a customer, there isn’t much you can do to prevent this scam other than carefully reading through an Instacart Shopper’s reviews before choosing them.
If this does happen to you, you can contact customer service to get a refund and leave an honest review about the Shopper to warn others.
5. Bad Replacement Items
Instacart has a system for dealing with requested items that aren’t in stock.
When placing an order, customers can indicate their replacement preferences.
If the Instacart customer doesn’t have any instructions and an item is out of stock, the Shopper can message the customer and see if they’d like a replacement.
Some customers will use this to game the system.
Even though they approve a replacement, they will report the items as a poor replacement, meaning they don’t approve of the chosen substitute.
Instacart will refund them.
There isn’t much you can do to prevent this as a Shopper, but it can hurt you if you get lower star reviews.
One option you have is to screenshot messages from the customer.
While you can’t do much with these, it may help you plead your case if Instacart decides to deactivate your account at some point.
An Instacart Shopper is instructed to only buy the items on a customer’s list unless they have the customer’s approval.
However, some Shoppers take advantage and will add on additional items that weren’t ordered.
These Shoppers are adding on items and then not delivering the order.
They can wind up with “free” groceries or extra money, and the customer ends up with nothing.
Customers can request a refund through Instacart, but it may take a few days.
7. Instacart Fraud
Most of these examples constitute Instacart fraud.
Either a Shopper or customer is using Instacart’s policies and system to their advantage.
Instacart fraud hurts everyone.
While the company is good at refunding customers for issues, too many refunds can result in a price hike.
The best way to avoid Instacart fraud is to be diligent about checking star ratings.
If someone has been burned, they’ll usually review.
8. Phishing Scams That Cause Deactivation
Some Shoppers are victims of phishing scams.
Scammers will call Shoppers, posing as Instacart employees.
They can wind up getting sensitive information.
The system is often flagged, and the company could deactivate the Shopper’s account for phishing activity.
While Instacart allows Shoppers to appeal deactivation, it’s a time-consuming process where you may lose out on money due to a phishing scam.
In addition to the Instacart scams above, there are also some for Shoppers to watch out for. These include the Phantom Tipper scheme, where users will promise a big tip but not deliver.
What To Do About Instacart Scams
If you are a victim of an Instacart scam, there is a chance that Instacart will help you to resolve the issue, especially if you are a customer.
When that isn’t the case, the FTC has laws in place to protect you.
The best way to get in touch with Instacart is to contact customer service.
You can reach them through their app, phone number, or email, but it’s generally easiest to get in touch through the app.
1. Through the App
The app has a live-chat support feature that guarantees you can chat with an agent within two minutes.
You just select a category for your issue and they’ll respond.
If you’d rather chat on your schedule, you can make an appointment to speak with an agent.
2. Phone Number
If you’d rather speak with an agent, there’s a “call now” feature inside the app.
You can speak with an agent within two minutes or schedule a callback at a time that’s convenient for you.
You can reach Instacart by email if you go through their website and send a message through their “contact us” button.
The company doesn’t have a direct email address.
Even though the company does make an effort to combat scammers, there are Instacart scams to watch out for.
Likely, they won’t go away anytime soon.
However, as long as you take the right precautions, you should be able to continue using the platform, either as a Shopper or a customer, with relative ease.